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Kuster, Welch Propose Health Care Plan

  • Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., answers a reporter's question as Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., listens during a news conference at LaVallee Building Supply in West Lebanon, N.H., on July 21, 2017. The pair were promoting Solutions over Politics, a plan to stabilize the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing it. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2017 12:06:20 AM
Modified: 7/22/2017 12:11:24 AM

West Lebanon — The two Democratic lawmakers representing the Upper Valley in the U.S. House said on Friday they are ready to talk with Republicans about ways to fix the Affordable Care Act, should the GOP give up efforts to repeal the health care law.

U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., who both supported the ACA when it was enacted, spoke in favor of a collection of changes they said would help stabilize the individual health insurance market during a news conference at LaValley Building Supply in West Lebanon.

“We hope our colleagues in the Senate will get past their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and will take the time in a thoughtful way to hold hearings on a number of the issues that we think can be improved,” Kuster said.

When asked specifically how they would compromise with Republicans, Kuster pointed to a Republican proposal automatic enrolling the uninsured. The provision would come with an opt-out option and replace the individual mandate currently in force through the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

Overall, she said, the goal would remain the same, “get as many people into the program as possible.”

Welch placed the onus on Republicans, saying it’s up to them to decide whether or not they want to work with Democrats.

“There’s a debate on their side about trying to work with us,” he said. “They’ve got to work it out.”

Democrats aim to start the conversation with Republicans by talking about changes to the individual market because its an area that’s drawn criticism from Republicans in the past, Welch said.

“Step one was to focus on how do we get those conversations started,” Welch said. “Many Republicans have been talking about (the individual market), so it’s the first step.”

The Democrats’ five-part plan, dubbed “Solutions Over Politics: Stabilizing & Improving the Individual Market” and supported by Kuster, Welch and eight of their Democratic colleagues in the House, calls for a $15 billion annual reinsurance fund that would be managed by the states to help cover costs when patients need more health services than the average patient.

Kuster said she would like people in their 50s and 60s to be able to buy into Medicare and to allow people living in areas where there is a lack of competition in the individual health insurance market to purchase plans through the Washington, D.C. exchange that members of Congress use to obtain insurance.

For his part, Larry Huot, the president of LaValley Building Supply, said there’s no question that health care costs need to be addressed.

“When employees get a cost-of-living increase, well, how does that come anywhere near approaching double-digit inflation to health (insurance premiums)?” he said.

As Congress sorts out the next step for the country’s health care system, health care costs are rising for Rebecca Courtemanche, of White River Junction, her husband and their three children.

The family purchases health insurance on Vermont Health Connect, the state’s exchange created through the Affordable Care Act. While they’re glad to have access to insurance, Courtemanche told the small crowd gathered at the event that the family’s costs keep rising, even as their income stays flat.

Last year, the family paid $260 per month in premium costs for a high-deductible plan. This year, they’re paying $350 per month for a plan with a family deductible of $10,600 and an out-of-pocket maximum of $13,100, she said.

Courtemanche is a full-time student studying for a bachelor’s degree in health care administration who works part time as a dental assistant for Upper Valley Smiles, a program offered by Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital which provides basic dental care for children in some Upper Valley schools.

If she left her job, she said, the family would qualify for Medicaid.

“I love what it is that I do and I feel that I am actually being a role model for my children,” Courtemanche said. “I don’t want to be without health insurance, but it would be nice to have a more affordable plan.”

Valley News Staff Writer Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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